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Teaching tolerance or acting tolerant? Evaluating skills- and contact-based prejudice reduction interventions among Palestinian-Israeli and Jewish-Israeli youth

Alaina Brenick, Samantha E. Lawrence, Daniell Carvalheiro, Rony Berger


Although contact-based interventions are the cornerstone of prejudice reduction, in high-conflict environments, incendiary contact with outgroups can instead exacerbate negative attitudes. Supplementing contact interventions with social-cognitive/emotional approaches may, instead, help facilitate positive contact. This study evaluated the effectiveness of two prejudice reduction interventions among 148 Palestinian-Israeli and 154 Jewish-Israeli 5th grade students (Mage.years = 10.55, SD = 0.26) in a high conflict area. Schools in Jaffa, Israel were assigned to a social-cognitive/emotional skills-based intervention, a skills- and contact-based intervention (i.e., skills, skills+contact), or the control group—all delivered as part of the curriculum. Prejudice was assessed through participants' judgments of and justifications about hypothetical scenarios of intergroup exclusion in peer and home contexts at pre-test, post-test, and 6-month follow-up. Repeated measures ANOVAs showed various main effects including gender, ethnicity, and context in which the exclusion occurred (peer/home). Significant higher level interactions with group by time demonstrated the positive influence of both treatment groups on prejudice reduction. The skills and skills+contact groups became more rejecting while the control group became more accepting of exclusion across time. Additionally, the skills and skills+contact groups increased in moral and empathic reasoning over time, whereas the control group increased in social conventional and stereotyped prejudiced reasoning. These findings illustrate the effectiveness of in-school social-cognitive/emotional skills and combined skills+contact approaches in reducing the prejudiced attitudes of Palestinian- and Jewish-Israeli pre-adolescents, especially in areas with protracted conflict.
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